Tributes have been pouring in for Duncan Wray.
The beloved owner of the Vernon Vipers died suddenly on Thursday, his 68th birthday, at his Vancouver Island home near Victoria.
“We were shocked and saddened to receive word today about Duncan,” said B.C. Hockey League commissioner John Grisdale. “He was the lifeblood of the Vipers franchise for a very long time and he leaves a huge void in our league and in our hearts.”
Wray bought the then Vernon Lakers in 1992, and changed the team name to Vipers in 1996. Under Wray’s ownership, the Vipers were four-time national Junior A champions, including back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. In addition, the Vipers claimed six Fred Page Cup BCHL titles and five Doyle Cup wins over the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Related: Vernon Vipers owner dies suddenly
Each BCHL team will hold a moment of silence in his honour prior to their next home game. The Vipers, who entertain the Cowichan Valley Capitals Saturday at 6 p.m. at Kal Tire Place, have not announced, as of Friday, if they will do something else to honour Wray.
Condolences and tributes to the Vipers and social media outlets have been steady, from former players:
“Dunc was so much more than just an owner. The way he treated the players and people around him was like no other. He made Vernon one of the best places to play in all of junior hockey. I’m incredibly grateful I was able to spend 3 great years with him and to win 2 championships with him behind us was so special. The team would not have been the same without him. I’ll always have the picture of him in my mind, standing behind the glass in the corner of the rink cheering us on. Thanks for everything and rest easy.” – Kellen Jones
“This is truly sad sad news. Duncan was the best owner I ever played for and has created truly what I believe to be the best place to play Jr A hockey in Canada. He will be greatly missed but what a legacy he has left behind. God bless.” – Chris Budnick
“A great team owner, hockey fan, dentist and level-headed hockey parent. I knew him as all four, and it’s the last quality that might be the rarest.” – Dan Ebenal
“A huge loss for Jr hockey and Vernon. He built a model hockey organization which reflected his genuine belief in people and family.” – Ernie Gare
“This man can never be replaced. Condolences to the Wray family. Vernon lost one of their best.” – Cody Vigeant;
“What a tragic loss. We will miss talking and joking with him before Viper games. Fran and I send our deepest condolences to the Wray Family and the Vipers organization past and present. R.I.P Duncan.” – Dennis Sponholz
In 2011, Wray was inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame and last July, the 1999 RBC Cup-winning Vipers team was inducted as well. Wray was also recognized in 2011 with a Freedom of the City award from the City of Vernon.
Several Vipers alumni went on to NHL careers during Wray’s tenure including Mike Santorelli, Andrew Hammond, Aaron Volpatti, Tyson Strachan and Rod Pelley and soon-to-be Canadian Olympian Chay Genoway. Countless others went on to successful collegiate and professional careers in hockey.
Professionally, Wray was an accomplished and well-respected oral surgeon. On more than one occasion, he was pressed into service performing dental repairs on his own players.
Wray’s service to the BCHL was unmatched and he was chairman of the league’s board of directors right up to the time of his passing. He also served as chairman from 1999 to 2006 before resuming the role in 2011.
Funeral details have yet to be released.
The BCHL said every team will hold a moment of silence in memory of Wray prior to their home game, and also said it will be “business as usual” for the Vipers through the end of the season in regards to the team’s ownership.